Wednesday 23 April 2008

Management theory

Following the excellent discussion of managerialism in the latest issue of Studies in Christian Ethics, here’s a piece by Kim Fabricius...

PETER: Eh… Jesus…

JESUS: Yes, Peter…?

PETER: I’ve been thinking.

JESUS: Start the day with a miracle, is it?

PETER: No, seriously, Jesus, I’ve been thinking…

JESUS: What about, Peter?

PETER: About mission – and about the future.

JESUS: Into eschatology now, are we?

PETER: Escha … escha … escha-what-ogy?

JESUS: “Eschatology”, Peter. The “last things” – death, judgement, heaven, hell – the end of the world. You said you were thinking about the future.

PETER: Not that far into the future. I was thinking more about the immediate future.

JESUS: What about it?

PETER: Precisely Jesus – what about it? We can’t go on living like this.

JESUS: Like what, Peter?

PETER: Like “lilies of the field”. You say that they don’t worry about the future, so why should we? Come on, Jesus, get real! Ours is a field for mission, not flowers. If we’re going to go out proclaiming the kingdom of God, we’ve got to plan ahead. “Lambs among wolves” indeed! We’ll get eaten alive.

JESUS: What if I tell you to take some mint sauce along?

PETER: Come on, Jesus, I’m serious.

JESUS: Okay, Peter, tell me about these plans of yours.

PETER: Management theory.

JESUS: Pardon?

PETER: Management theory, Jesus. Haven’t you read the latest pack from Jerusalem? It’s all there. We need a system.

JESUS: A system?

PETER: Yes, a system. We’ve got a product, and we’ve got to sell it – we’ve got to be productive – and to be productive we need a system. It’s all about efficiency.

JESUS: I see.

PETER: We need to establish goals and set targets, and we need to prioritise.

JESUS: “Prioritise”?

PETER: Yes, I mean tax collectors and sinners? It’s a disgrace.

JESUS: I don’t do diss, Peter. But go on.

PETER: Where was I…? Yes, and we need to monitor, evaluate, assess.

JESUS: Of course.

PETER: I was thinking of a market research unit and a performance review team. And we’ll need a director of finance.

JESUS: But I’ve already appointed Judas as treasurer.

PETER: Bad choice according to the Micah-Baruch type test I ran him through, which was confirmed by the little focus group Jim and I set up.

JESUS: Who do you have in mind?

PETER: I’m drawing up a shortlist. And, of course, you’ll need a personal private consultant. And my first job will be to come up with a mission statement.

JESUS: Absolutely.

PETER: You know we don’t even have a mobile phone or a laptop. And we’ll have to have a blog.

JESUS: Is that “blog” as in Gog and Magog?

PETER: This isn’t a joke, Jesus. With that attitude no wonder we’re in such a state. But no more. From now on we’re going to be organised, with nothing left to chance, all the “i”s dotted and “t”s crossed. The future will be secure.

JESUS: So we’ll be profitable?


JESUS: And successful?

JESUS: And respected, admired, extolled?

PETER: I can see your picture now on the cover of Chronos: “Jesus of Nazareth: Man of the Year”!

JESUS: [Starts laughing.]

PETER: What’s so funny, Jesus?

JESUS: [Laughter increases.]

PETER: Why are you laughing?

JESUS: [Now in stitches.]

PETER: [Testily] Jesus!

JESUS: Peter, you’ve forgotten something absolutely crucial to good practice.

PETER: [Arrogantly] And what’s that?

JESUS: The No Asshole Rule.


Anonymous said...

I wonder what apostolic succession would mean on this score? :)

Richard Beck said...

I love Sutton's book. It really does, for a non-religious, secular, management book, have a great deal of gospel in it.

Anonymous said...

"I love Sutton's book. It really does, for a non-religious, secular, management book, have a great deal of gospel in it."

At least (the gospel) is showing up somewhere!

Anonymous said...

Re. Richard and Steve's allusion to my allusion: Robert Sutton, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilised Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't (Sphere, 2007).

Meredith said...

Thanks Kim! You brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my face.

Anonymous said...

I once had a bumper sticker on my car, that somehow disappeared. It was during my quasi-irreverant days, but whatever:

"Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you are an a _ _ h _ _ e."

A crude restatement of we are saved by grace? Bwahaha. Oh God, Kim, you sure know to turn things on the proverbial ear. Much needed. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The picture is hysterical, by the way. "there's always free cheese in the mousetrap, baby..."

Michael said...

Maybe I'm dense, but why is the curse-word on the lips of Jesus necessary again?

Anonymous said...

Irony was always one of Jesus' strong suits, Michael! And linguistic piety was not, I think, high on his list of virtues.

Michael said...

But would not a non-cursing Jesus with a quick-wit at the end, also serve the author's intended expression? I'd suggest that the last line be changed to something more appropriate. More edifying. I enjoyed the dialogue down to that point. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Michael, its a quotation from a well known book. Should Kim have written the "NO A--h--e Rule"? But that would suggest that Jesus would dare not speak the language of the people, that we was above all that. Not quite the point, I should think!
If we Christians are offended by a mere word (which is, by the way, not truly a curse but a vulgarity), how in the world are we going to be able to sit with sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors (not to speak of middle managers at the branch bank!) without covering our ears much of the time? Perfectly pious, maybe, but utterly cut off from the possibilities of love, dialogue, and conversion.
Somehow, though, I sense I am now guilty of trying to convince you of something you are fairly sure of. Sh-t, I think I better just sh-t up now!

Michael said...

I thought that there was something more to do with that comment than I understood. Even so, it's poor authorship, IMO as an author, to use such uncouth words (on the lips of the Son of God no less; perhaps the real purpose might be understood to spark controversy) in order to illustrate the point.

This is usually a clear sign the author has failed to do their job. The author is now relying on words rather than making use of them.

Here's an example of good writing, the difference should be obvious enough -

Thank you,
Michael Metts

Anonymous said...

actually, Michael, I think one could quite seriously argue that Jesus is the very definition of uncouth. So, to quote from one of my favorite theological sources, the Oxford English Dictionary, here are two definitions of uncouth:
1. Of an unknown or unfamiliar character; unusual, uncommon, strange; marvellous.

2. Of an unfamiliar or strange appearance or form; spec., having an odd, uncomely, awkward, or clumsy shape or bearing.

Maybe the OED is not your cup of tea. How about Isaiah 53: 2-3. I think that's about as uncouth as it gets. Thanks be to God I can be an asshole beloved in the sight of God, who became a curse for me. A real one, and not just a lil ole word. And thats the offense, the one that saves.

Michael said...

Proverbs warned me this might happen. Time to move on. Good day to you St. Egregious.

Anonymous said...

Yes, dear Michael, I too feel the bitter cut of the sharp two-edged sword (Prov. 5:4, Heb. 4:12), especially here:

Prov 10:32: The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse.

May the great Wound of Love guard us from the darts of the evil one this day, my brother.

Anonymous said...

I think Michael's reaction typifies an unreflected docetism. While affirmation of the full divinity of Christ is necessary and commendable, do not forget the full humanity. And, I'm fairly certain that the whole 'brood of vipers' and 'unwashed sepulchre' bits are rather equivalent to 'asshole' in tonality.

Michael said...

Anonymous: Christ's indignation is not having a profane tongue.

Anonymous said...

If using vulgar language in certain contexts is wrong, then claiming Jesus wouldn't have used it such contexts isn't docetic.
Maybe vulgar language is fine, I don't know. I would be curious to know if Egregious, Kim, or anyone else has any interesting defenses of "casual swearing," in light of the obvious prooftexts against it (apart from the all-too-obvious "Paul said shit that one time!").

Anonymous said...

Jiminy crickets, of course Jesus used vulgar language. Vulgar simply means the language of the common people. Look it up. That has nothing to do with curses or 'common swearing', which has to do with taking an oath, usually to a God, either false or true. In other words, 'asshole' ain't no curse word, neither is it swearing!
And to call it casual is already a contestable hermeneutical move. Context, as you suggest, is everything. I think that given the literary context in which Kim used it, it was anything but casual (in its very casualness!). It was a wonderfully ironic use of the title of a very popular book currently making the rounds.
(and now the little voice in my little bitty vulgar brain is saying, 'why in the world are you even arguing about this with these folks? Are they serious, or are they just sh-tting you?')

Exeunt, stage left.

Anonymous said...

You know, why is one particular word considered, "dirty" while others are not, hmmm?

Sure, this is a theology blog, but let's indulge in some linguistic stuff!

The A word which some have taken issue with, literally, is not all that bad. It's just words. It's a combination of two words. You know what they are. People do have rear-ends, and physiologically, that orifice is oft times called a "sphincter."

So would it be just as bad if we said: "Asssphincter" or "Assorifice" versus "Ass_ _ _ _"?

What about Gluteus Cavus? If it was in Latin, would that be ok?

Or does it have to do with the actual reference to that part of the body where waste is dispersed hmm? Somehow that is profane? I won't disagree by nature and biologically it is somewhat dirty, given what is discharged, however, reality is, we as human beings have them.

Or is the issue associating a person's personality with anatomy that is dirty in nature? What is it exactly?

What about calling people, "Elbows" or "Knees"? Would that be more acceptable? We could use these descriptions to describe people who are prone to bending, waffling, or changing direction.
Or, how about "Nosehole" - after all, think of all the mucus and stuff that gets dried up in there or when one sneezes, it approaches speeds of up to 200 MPH.

Or is it the intent of the use of the word itself that is so offensive? The mere utterance of the word transporting people's imaginations to dark and mysterious places where evil must certainly lurk. The opening (or exit) into hell perhaps?

I don't know. All I know is that it all seems sort of silly, at least to me. I myself feel very silly for have even brought any of this up.

But you see that's the great message of Christ - we are saved by grace - we don't have to play C.Y.A. (Or for some, C.Y.A.H.)

Anyway, you can flame and roast me over the pyres of righteousness. I welcome it. :D

Michael said...

We are not discussing vulgarities. We are discussing profane language, which is irreverent language. To suggest that language like this is similar to Jesus' language is... nevermind, I can't help you.

This isn't linguistics or theology. This is a case of profane language for the sake of stylistic purposes - entertainment. Jesus is not so pretentious with his use of language.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

I am sorry if my sketch has offended you. I presume you're not a big fan of Stanley Hauerwas!

"Profane"? More like the vernacular, I should have thought. I mean it's not like I used the F-word (not "fundamentalism"). "Pretentious"? Perhaps you mean, rather, "smart-a**ed"? As for "entertaining", I certainly hope so!

But, again, I am sorry if I have offended you.

Anonymous said...

Kim Fabricius,

Suppose people mean what they say, and you're efforts at changing their words are both unnecessary and inappropriate. Would you have anything of your own to entertain us with?

When observing definitions of both profane and vernacular, it is clear that vernacular is not the term for words which are profane in nature. I believe profane stands.

Michael Metts

Anonymous said...


I'm fairly certain there is no foul language or vulgarities in my Red Letter version of the Bible.

Why does this bother you so much? I mean, really? I've never seen someone get so upset at humor like this. It's not as if Jesus was the proverbial "butt" of a joke or His divinity made light of, etc., etc.

Be that as it may, we can discuss this back and forth and not really get anywhere. Time to move on, methinks. :)

P.S. Laugh a little.

Anonymous said...

I guess I just missed that part of the scriptures where Jesus declared certain words 'unclean' (that is, profane). Is there a list somewhere of what these words are, so I can avoid them in the future?

Anonymous said...

P.S. One of my favorite theologians once said: there are no bad words. Bad thoughts, but no bad words.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, am indignant that Kim's Jesus didn't use a 1611 vulgarity!

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